Thursday, December 09, 2010

Actors at Any Age

In the upcoming remake of "Tron," actor Jeff Bridges is digitally altered to look much younger. He thinks this is a good thing:
In "Tron: Legacy," which opens Dec. 17, 61-year-old actor Jeff Bridges will play Kevin Flynn, at his natural age, and a computerized avatar called "Clu," who hasn't aged since around the time he was first created in the original Tron in 1982.
Clu bears Bridges' face, altered to make him about 35 years old, but it's grafted onto a younger actor's body.
While it may be eerie for audiences to see a new performance from a younger-looking Bridges, it was no less strange for the actor himself.
"It's bizarre. It's great news for me, because now it means I can play myself at any age," Bridges said.
I am not so sure. I think audiences like seeing actors they are familiar with play different roles, and they like seeing their evolution over time. They don't want to see them playing roles they should have played 30 years ago.

(I didn't understand this until recently. I remember being a kid and being puzzled about why my parents and/or grandparents were so keen on identifying actors in movies and equating them with previous roles. Now that I'm older I understand it and I understand why we like seeing familiar actors in new roles in new movies.)

As just one example: Jeff Bridges was wonderful in the 1973 version of "The Iceman Cometh." I only saw this performance last year, and you really have to see it if you like good, old-fashioned drama. It's a wonderful movie of a wonderful play, and Jeff Bridges did a very memorable job in it (as did several other actors).

Bridges' youth was a crucial part of his role in TIC. It was indispensable. But you can't put a 61 year old's face on that body and get the same play, or put a 25 year old's face on that body and get the same play. It's more than a matter of looks, but one of attitude and inflection and diffidence. Any actor must know that.

I'm sure Bridges would like to extend his career. We all would, or will, at his age. But it can't be done.

And yet, I'm sure it will be done, and the art of acting will suffer for it -- though producers and studios will make lots of money off of it so that, like all things, it will turn into profitable crap.

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